The UK will be going through the “most dangerous time” of the COVID-19 pandemic in the weeks before vaccine rollout, England’s chief medical officer has now warned
Prof Chris Whitty has urged the British public to minimise all unnecessary contact with other people. The next few weeks, before the rollout of vaccines nation-wide, will be the “most dangerous time” of the pandemic for the NHS, England’s chief medical officer has said.
Thousands more people set to receive a vaccine for COVID-19 this week following seven mass centres opening across England. NHS England has said hundreds more GP-led and hospital services would also be open later this week.
The UK government is aiming to vaccinate around 15 million people in the UK, including the over-70s, healthcare workers and those who are required to shield, by mid-February.
This comes after the locations of the seven new mass vaccination centres for COVID-19 that will be opening this week have now been revealed by the UK government in London, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Surrey and Stevenage.
Prof Whitty told BBC One’s Breakfast: “This is everybody’s problem. Any single unnecessary contact you have with someone is a potential link in a chain of transmission that will lead to a vulnerable person.”
He said there were over 30,000 people [in English hospitals alone] with Covid-19 – compared to about 18,000 [in England] at the peak last April.
He added that “anybody who is not shocked” by the number of people in hospital “has not understood this at all”.
“This is an appalling situation,”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock will set out the government’s vaccine delivery plan at a news conference later.
He said the proposals would be the “keystone of our exit out of the pandemic”.
The vaccine plan will be unveiled after the UK recorded more than 80,000 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic. Around one in 50 people is infected across the UK.
The rate is as high as one in 20 in some parts of London, Prof Whitty told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, adding: “There’s a very high chance that if you meet someone unnecessarily they will have Covid.”
In Essex, Southend Hospital’s oxygen supply has “reached a critical situation” due to rising numbers of infections.
This comes after Michael Gove has warned that there are “very, very difficult weeks ahead” as England battles to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country, which is being driven by a new COVID variant that has been judged to be between 50% and 70% more transmissible than the previous one.
It has had to reduce the amount it uses to treat patients, according to a document shared with the BBC.
In Surrey, which has one of the highest infection rates in the country, a temporary mortuary has been opened as hospital mortuaries have reached capacity.
Almost 200 bodies are being stored at the emergency site, which is a former military hospital, and other local authorities have told the BBC they expect to open similar facilities soon.
On Saturday scientists warned stricter lockdown measures might be needed in England and the health secretary has urged people to follow the spirit as well as the letter of the rules.